Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ex-Convict Is Charged After Abduction in Connecticut Leads to a Body

NEW HAVEN — The last time anyone recalled seeing MaryEllen Welsh, she was heading toward her friend’s house in New Britain, about to have coffee on Sunday morning.

To most people, it would have been a pleasant, if unremarkable, scene. But to Leslie T. Williams, a convicted sex offender recently released from prison, seeing Ms. Welsh represented an opportunity, according to the authorities.

Mr. Williams told New Britain police that he followed Ms. Welsh inside, intent on stealing a car and some money. But he told the authorities that his plans changed once he was inside.

According to an arrest warrant obtained on Monday by The Associated Press, Mr. Williams told the police that he soon believed he had to kill Ms. Welsh and her host, Carol Larese.

“He told police he had made many mistakes such as allowing the females time to memorize his face,” according to the warrant. “That is when Williams realized he would have to kill both females.”

Mr. Williams shot Ms. Larese inside the house, then drove off with Ms. Welsh in her Honda Passport, the police said. Ms. Larese survived; Ms. Welsh did not. Her body was found on Monday in a wooded area about 10 miles from Ms. Larese’s home.

Mr. Williams, 31, was charged on Monday with criminal attempt to commit murder, robbery, kidnapping with a firearm and other offenses. Prosecutors are preparing to file additional charges in connection to Ms. Welsh’s death, New Britain police said.

To homeowners in Connecticut, the case bore a disquieting similarity to a home invasion eight months ago in which a mother and her two daughters in Cheshire were killed by two parolees. It also renewed calls from state officials to toughen laws concerning repeat criminals.

What led Mr. Williams, who was released from prison four weeks ago, to Ms. Larese’s home on Woodhaven Drive on Sunday was not immediately clear, said Sgt. Darren Pearson of the New Britain Police Department.

“They didn’t know him, he didn’t know them,” Sergeant Pearson said.

Ms. Larese, 65, told the police that she pretended to be dead, then went to a neighbor’s house after Mr. Williams and Ms. Welsh had left. She asked the neighbor to call 911, Sergeant Pearson said.

When the police arrived, Ms. Welsh was gone, as was her Honda. Early Sunday afternoon, the police in Plymouth, Conn., spotted the Honda sport utility vehicle and pursued it to nearby Watertown, where the driver, Mr. Williams, crashed the S.U.V. and was taken into custody.

Ms. Welsh, 61, remained missing until Monday morning, when the police found her body off Old Waterbury Road in Bristol. Investigators would not say how they were led to that site.

Todd A. Edgington, a public defender assigned to represent Mr. Williams, told The Associated Press that he wanted Mr. Williams placed in protective custody because he was concerned that inmates would harm his client if state officials used Mr. Williams’s arrest as a rationale for temporarily halting paroles, as they did for four months after the home invasion in Cheshire.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell did issue a statement on Monday in which she vowed to renew her call on the General Assembly to approve “a simple three-strikes law in Connecticut.”

“The time for excuses and rationalization has passed,” Governor Rell said. “We need a law that says if you commit three violent offenses, you will be sent to prison for the rest of your life. Period. It is time for action.”

In 2000, Mr. Williams was convicted of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl he knew in Waterbury. Mr. Williams was denied parole two years ago, and incurred several disciplinary violations while in prison — including two for making threats and one for “tampering with security,” according to Brian Garnett, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Correction.

He was given 10 years’ probation when he was released on March 4 from the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, a medium-security prison, and had been living in homeless shelters in Hartford while looking for a job, said William H. Carbone, executive director of the court support services division for the Connecticut Judicial Branch.

Mr. Williams met as recently as Wednesday with his probation officer, who had believed that Mr. Williams was making strides, Mr. Carbone said. “She firmly believed that he had looked forward to being released and to getting his life together,” Mr. Carbone added.

In New Britain, shaken residents struggled with something they said was unimaginable in their lives.

“This just brings back the same fear, that we’re all at risk,” said Katie Jurkiewicz, a 25-year-old student and artist who has lived down the street from Ms. Larese for 20 years.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” she added."

Au contrary, Katie.

There's PLENTY you can do about it. Better locks, security systems, learning a new sense of awareness, and how to protect yourself. Your Governor talks tough but won't do a thing to improve the ridiculous firearm restrictions, but you may still own a handgun as long as you're prepared to jump through some hoops. Failing that, get a 20 gauge shotgun and find someone who'll teach you to use it.

But above all, stop thinking like a helpless victim-in-waiting. These women did everything he asked and he still shot them. Plenty more like him out there so grow up and take some responsibility for your own protection.

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